We all know the feeling of focusing on a task, finding a problem with the task, then trying to solve the problem of that task, inadvertently creating a new task, focusing on that and finding a new problem with the new task! Sometimes it can send you on a wild goose chase when you should have just stuck to your initial task, completed it, then focused on editing it and fixing errors.
While it’s often due to our own best intentions that we stray away from being productive and efficient while working, there are also many other areas that can scrape us away from our workload. Anything from social media, to disorganisation, and even peers who want to tell you about what they got up to last night. In his extensive work ‘The Productivity Project’, productivity expert Chris Bailey states – “when you aren’t giving your work your full focus, you simply aren’t spending your time or attention efficiently.”
While most of us can feel the difference between a productive, efficient workday, compared to one where little has been achieved, there are still many methods and work hacks that most of us miss, that when employed, can cause productivity to explode. Going forward then, we’ll take a look at some of these vital efficiency techniques that accountants can adopt to help them get ahead of their peers and competition.
Without clients most businesses wouldn’t be in operation, and for accountants, it doesn’t need to be iterated on just how crucial understanding your client’s financial data is, but also demonstrating to your clients that you understand this. Finding effective ways to show how you can cater to a client’s needs, using the most up-to-date software and information, and knowing when to cut ties with loose ends are all important aspects to making your day-to-day operations more effective and efficient.
While every client will be unique, and some may be more laid back than others, engaging first to understand the objectives of their business with as much clarity as possible will go a long way to keeping future communications fruitful. Encouraging transparency within your relationship means it is easier for you to convey understandable financial developments, while your clients can also more easily convey any stresses or queries they have.
There are many free and simple-to-use communication tools which can help maintain a close professional relationship with clients who may be more geographically distant. For example Zoom is an easy way to connect face-to-face if there is something important to briefly discuss. Alternatively, automated quarterly updates through mail services can help create a feeling of ‘being up-to-date’ without needing to take your time away from other important work.
Open Source Software:
Open source software, and other financial technologies (fintechs), are becoming increasingly important in modern business, especially for accountants who are seeking effective ways to streamline their operations. Open banking provides a platform for accounting firms to access their clients’ financial data, and then consolidate it all in an easy-to-understand way, completely erasing the necessity for managing masses of information from multiple sources.
If they haven’t already, encouraging clients to move their books to open banking software will be one of the largest time savers you could secure, increasing efficiency drastically, and allowing you to focus on much more demanding tasks, like getting in more clients!
When it comes to clients, challenges are inevitable, and addressing the complexities of managing difficult client relationships requires a strategic approach. Effective communication, setting clear boundaries, and ensuring timely actions are of course important, however some business relationships just don’t work. Whether it is your client picking at and finding problems with you, or they are unreliable and you have come to deem them as a drain on your time, resources, and ultimately productivity, problem clients require a sometimes drastic solution.
Often, a transparent yet professional chat can resolve any misunderstanding, though if the decision leans towards ending your business relationship, it’s important you follow the correct procedural routes and communicate yourself clearly with your problem client. Regularly reviewing client relationships and setting clear expectations from the beginning can help mitigate potential challenges in the future with new faces.
Understanding the importance of time management, and how to improve it should be a practice any accountant is constantly working at. Utilising methods to free up space in your work schedule, whether it be through cutting out ‘deadweight’ activities, offloading unimportant tasks to more appropriate colleagues, or automating processes, there is always room for increasing your overall efficiency once you get digging!
Sorting through your emails is pretty much a must for any accountant looking to keep a fruitful and professional relationship with their clients, however, you can ask any of your colleagues, and they will likely all express their distaste in the amount of time they spend dealing with emails.
Addressing the complexities of a flooded inbox can be done simply enough, it just requires a strategic approach in how you handle it. Anything from dedicated ‘check and respond’ times, be it first thing in the morning, or for ten minutes at the cost of your lunch hour. During this time you can prioritise urgent communications while setting aside ones you know can either wait or simply be discarded altogether. Emails should be looked at as tools to facilitate tasks, and not become the task all in itself. The aim should be to get your mailbox in order, with as few irrelevant emails as possible, and once it’s achieved, your mind will feel like a fog has cleared.
Task management revolves a lot around delegation to the correct people or programs that are equipped with the necessary ability to handle what are doubtlessly important, but tedious and time-consuming tasks. Task delegation goes hand in hand with email management, as you can begin to forward emails directly for designated individuals to deal with them, taking the time out of both processes, and redesignating it to focus on your clients.
The secret to automation is finding the correct accounting software that can be used either in-house amongst your colleagues to speed up programming processes, or with your clients to help them get accurate insights into their finances. Products like Quickbooks, Crunch, Xero, and Pulse are some of the best accounting software currently available on the market and offer a plethora of programming that can effortlessly streamline financial processes.
Open-source software is community-driven and frequently updated, ensuring accountants have access to all the latest tools, as well as, the automation software available has masses of support resources available to ensure that you, your workplace, and your clients can easily get to grips with the advantages open accounting and open banking apps have to offer.
While time management techniques are important to understand and initiate, another important metric of efficiency and productivity is scheduling and preparation. Open source software goes directly hand in hand with scheduling, as those products have built-in scheduling technology as part of their service, however there are still other elements to scheduling which can lead to a systematic flow of work. With a well worked out schedule, deadlines for both you and your clients are more likely to be met, reducing stress levels and increasing customer satisfaction.
Diaries and Digital Calendars:
Diaries and calendars have existed for as long as business has, and a well used diary to keep track of clients and tasks will always be essential. As online tools have advanced, digital calendars have become essential for teams and clients alike, providing a centralised platform to track important tasks and ensure that no commitment is overlooked. For accountants and their clients, automated reminders can assist in prioritising important dates for documentation. For accountancy firms, digital calendars can dramatically enhance workflow efficiency by having teamwide access, keeping everyone in the loop regarding meetings or calls, and making it clear what tasks need to be committed to by who.
Excel / Sheets:
Whether you work with Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, mastering the use of spreadsheets, whether it is a primary necessity or not, will be extremely beneficial for you and your team. Not just to schedule workloads and organise client data, but collect and configure raw numbers to generate key financial insights.
The mastery of spreadsheets will smooth out the operations of any accounting firm, and regularly partaking in workshops or online courses on advanced features can help keep you and your team up to date with data simplification methods. Templates can be used to speed up the learning process, as well as plug-ins that can enhance data processing capabilities.
Project Management Tools:
Project management tools help combine each element of accountancy efficiency we have already discussed and much more by generating a centralised hub for communication and documentation. They allow for a structured approach to managing tasks and larger projects across an entire workforce, meaning each member can remain informed about exactly what is needed at any given time for your clients, as well as any internal paperwork that needs to be completed. Brands like Vena, Forecast Pro, and Prophix are leading names that can help streamline operations, increasing efficiency and productivity across the board by reducing miscommunication and ensuring everyone’s efforts are aligned.
As with any other technology, regular training will help your team use these tools effectively, helping your firm visualise ongoing work, delegate tasks and track processes and progress. To further ensure the alignment of team tasks and their reliable completion, accountants can also consider the adoption of techniques like SMART objectives for themselves and their workforce to dramatically improve the overall efficiency and productivity of their business.
For any professional and all workforces, organisation is instrumental for not just efficiency and clarity, but also precision. A clutterless workspace, whether it is an inbox, a project management interface, or simply your work desk, goes a long way towards ensuring tasks are completed effectively and punctually, especially in the accounting profession, where precision regarding financial data is so important.
Creating a methodical approach to organisation and making things like sorting, categorising and maintaining a second nature, will ultimately make work tasks easier, because everything will be in order before you begin.
An organised workspace, from the desk to the desktop, and the entire office, has been proven to increase productivity and efficiency in workplaces regardless of industry. Most of your clients will feel like they are on a clean slate every new financial year, however for accountants the work does not stop. As you take on more clients this will become increasingly important, as you need to remain focused on single tasks, rather than having countless names and files scattered around, both physically and digitally. Creating work avenues simply through being organised can massively increase productivity by reducing distractions.
Investing in ergonomic office essentials such as posture-correct chairs, efficient lighting, and even easy-to-manage filing racks can go a long way to helping keep the workplace organised with workers who are comfortable and focused. It is also worth mentioning digital productivity-killers like social media apps that can clutter your digital workspace and create endless distractions! Clear them from your desktop along with the other clutter.
As the digital landscape evolves, the importance of ongoing education, and the ability to adapt to the constantly evolving trends in accounting continues to intensify. Accountants who actively engage with these advancements in fintech and automation tools will naturally gain an efficiency and productivity advantage over their competition and are going to benefit. Platforms like Sage offer up-to-date fintech news for those firms who are serious about workplace productivity.
Cloud-based accounting and innovative fintech tools like Pulse, which are powered by AI, are also rapidly emerging as the go-to technology for professionals all across the financial sector. For accountants specifically, dedicating time and resources to comprehend and employ these growing tools fully will enhance almost every aspect of their day-to-day work life.
Pulse is emerging as a leading fintech tool. Our product is powered by AI and delivers invaluable, actionable insights that enhance financial planning for a vast range of users, from individual professionals to large enterprises. Pulse utilises the latest advancements in financial technology to seamlessly integrate with Open Banking and Open Accounting platforms, securely consolidating data from any chosen financial institution to provide a holistic view of the users financial situation.
With Pulse, financial management becomes streamlined, automating functions like transaction categorisation and cash flow projections. This guarantees your financial planning is rooted in precise data. Beyond that, Pulse leverages this data to your advantage, especially when establishing clear objectives. Using this accumulated data, our bespoke dashboard presents actionable insights, simplifying the process of discerning trends and opportunities while also pinpointing potential hurdles, beneficial to both you and your clients.
Efficiency and productivity go hand in hand, and for accountants, working efficiently means their clients are happy. It all comes down to reducing the number of distractions, confusions, and discomforts from the workplace to as close to nil as possible. From fostering alignments amongst the workforce, to clear communication and understanding with clients, and combining it all with cutting-edge fintech solutions like open-source software and Pulse, each strategy goes towards achieving a productive workforce that can be left to practise effective accounting.
Time management, delegation, automation, and organisation are not mere buzzwords, but essential components of a streamlined workflow. By integrating these work hacks – whether it’s scheduling with digital calendars, decluttering the workspace, or mastering project management tools – accountants can start outshining their competition, turning every day into an efficient one!
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